The Security Council today set up a new body to finish the remaining tasks of the United Nations war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, while calling on the courts to conclude their work by the end of 2014.
By a vote of 14 in favour, with one abstention (Russia), the Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals with two branches.
The Mechanism’s branch for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will begin functioning on 1 July 2012, while the branch for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will commence on 1 July 2013.
To ensure a smooth transition to the Mechanism, the Council requested both tribunals to take “all possible measures” to expeditiously complete all their remaining work no later than 31 December 2014.
Under the so-called “completion strategy,” the tribunals were supposed to complete investigations by the end of 2004, all trial activities at first instance by the end of 2008, and all work in 2010.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia abstained during the vote because it believed the tribunals had “every opportunity” to complete their work by the dates that had been previously agreed. “We firmly believe that today’s resolution is the last on the issue of the duration of activity of the tribunals and that they will be fully wound up by the end of 2014,” he added.
Several Council members welcomed the action, saying it sent a strong message against impunity and that it will help to preserve the legacy of the two tribunals.
By the resolution, the Council decided that all States “shall cooperate fully” with the Mechanism, and urged countries in which fugitives are suspected to be at large to further intensify their cooperation with the tribunals and the Mechanism.
It also urged the tribunals and the Mechanism to make every effort to refer cases not involving those most responsible for crimes to competent national jurisdictions.
The location of the two branches of the Mechanism will be subject to the conclusion of appropriate arrangements between the UN and host countries, and acceptance by the Security Council.
Since its inception 17 years ago, the ICTY, which is based in The Hague, has indicted 161 persons for war crimes committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The proceedings against 125 individuals have been completed, with only two indictees remaining at large – Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic.
Meanwhile, 10 fugitives wanted by the ICTR, which was created in 1994 in the wake of the Rwandan genocide and located in Arusha, Tanzania, still remain at large.